I want to put this old series of posts in the favorite posts section on the right sidebar, so I’ll be reposting them from my previous Blogger blog one by one over the next few weeks. An explanation of this series of posts can be found here.
What did Paul mean when he used the word called in regards to God’s calling? How did he define it? What significance did he give to it? Those are the questions this series of posts is seeking to answer. I’ve already posted a quote from Herman Ridderbos in which he gives us his studied view of Paul’s usage of the word; the point of these posts is to check things out to see if he’s right.
I’m going to start with 1 Corinthians 1, for no real reason except the word called or calling is used of God’s call several times there, and I know this passage fairly well, so I’ve got a bit of a head start on things. What I’ll do is look at each instance of the word in the context it is used to see what I can learn about the way Paul uses the word from that. I’ll not worry too much about the exact form of the word, but look at every usage that comes from the same root, as long as it is God doing the calling. Besides the text itself, I’m going to limit myself to my concordance, because that’s a tool that most people have and know how to use.
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus… (verse 1)What can we learn from this verse? First of all, the call here is to apostleship. If you’ve read Paul at all, you know that he considered his apostleship to be a personal appointment from God, so we can understand that in this usage, the call is a call that is particular in nature and of some strength, like a summons, maybe. It is this call that made Paul an apostle rather than a more ordinary follower of Christ. This call also originates in God’s will or choice, and it is to something: to be an apostle.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…(verse 2)The church is often refered to by Paul as the “called” or “called saints”. Here he explains that this saintly calling is to all believers everywhere, but it is only to believers. So we can understand this call as well to be particular rather than general: to all who call upon the name of the Lord, but only to those who call upon the name of the Lord. And it is a call to something: to be saints.
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.This calling is also to something: into fellowship with God’s son.
[After I first posted this, Brandon Watson added that this verse shows the power of God’s call,
since the call seems to be put forward as part of the clarification of verse 8, i.e., that God will keep you firm to the end. The idea seems to be that, because God is faithful, His call is the explanation of our steadfastness in Christ.Here are verses 7-9 so you can see the flow of the thought:
….you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.]
we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.In these verses we see a little of the power within the call of God. The message of Christ crucified (or the gospel) is, in general, something that is despised as worthless or troublesome. It is offensive the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. However, there is an exception: to those who are called, from both Jewish people and Gentile people, the message of Christ crucified becomes the power and wisdom of God. This call then, changes how the message of the gospel is perceived. This is also a particular call rather than a general call, for it is to certain Jews and Greeks out of the Jews and Greeks in general.
There’s another statement in this passage that is parallel to this one, so let’s put the phrases from the parallel statements side by side to see if we can glean a little more about the meaning of the words. The parallel statement is in verse 18:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.Putting the two side by side:
the preaching of Christ crucified
folly to those who are perishing/
a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles
but to us who are being saved/
but to those who are called
the power of God/
the power of God and the wisdom of God
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…These verses are interesting because they show us again the parallel between God’s choice and God’s calling. God calls what (or whom) he chooses.
This passage also stresses the insignificance of what (or who) is called. It is an “out of nothing” (things that are not) calling. This wording reminds us of God’s creation of the world out of nothing by command, suggesting to us that this calling, like God’s command in creation, is a creative command.
Thats it. We’ve gone through the whole chapter. Since this is all very rough, and what you are reading is more or less a bunch of study notes, I’ll ask what you see that I missed. What can you see in this passage about the meaning of the word called or calling when it is used by Paul in regards to the call of God?
All scripture quoted from the ESV.